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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've really been struggling with the issue of seat height. Until now, I've kept my seat high-at road biking height (just a slight bend in the knee when my leg is at the farthest/lowest point in the pedal stroke). This is proven to be the best seat height for max pedaling efficiency.

But of course we all know a seat that high is not the optimal height for steep descents, trials moves, getting over high logs, etc.

It's often suggested that we lower our seats for steep descents...but realistically, how many people routinely stop to adjust your seat height? (I've never actually witnessed any mountain biker do this!)

With a high seat, I find it downright dangerous to get off the seat and shift my weight over the rear tire, because that basically places the back edge of the seat directly in line with my "junk." One sudden deceleration could result in some serious bruising to the 'nads! :eek: In other words, I'm not exactly comfortable having a thin, hard object right in front of my stuff when I'm off (and behind) the seat.

Do you keep a high seat and just pray nothing happens to your junk when you're hanging back over the rear? Do you regularly stop to lower and raise your seat?

The two most obvious solutions are...
1. Compromise pedaling efficiency with a lower seat height so getting off and behind the seat is easier, or
2. Get a Gravity Dropper (which I'm seriously considering!).

As an aside, I've seen some mountain bikers with seats so low they look absurd when they're just pedaling along, because their knees are sticking out to the sides like wings and their legs never straighten. (But of course they have no problem at all when standing in the saddle!)

So what do experienced riders here do?

Scott
 

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For me it depends on where I'm riding and what I plan on doing. More often than not, I prefer to keep the saddle lower than it "should" be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So Kona_CT (and others)...would you say that having lots of "crotch room" to maneuver is generally more important in most average mountain biking than pedaling efficiency?

Seems like this is really the key question!

Scott
 

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permanent marker

I had a thread not long ago about my quadriceps burning really badly while pedaling and needing to stop often. After getting my seat height adjusted (in this case, raised) the issue went away but now my seat is also at the "road bike" position. I used a Sharpie marker to mark this optimal pedaling position on my seatpost so that I wouldn't lose it when out riding. Now I'm contemplating making a second mark a little lower, for the optimal off-road position. It shouldn't be too hard to hop off and move it before and after the trails if you have a quick-release type lever on your seat tube.

Maybe not quite as convenient, but certainly cheaper than an adjustable seatpost.

For the record, I've been riding with the seat in the "high" setting and haven't had an issue yet. I'll keep it like this until it becomes obvious that I need a second seat position on the trails, but the marker idea might be the way I'd go.
 

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I found the perfect height for me that gives me decent pedalling position and with the saddle not in the way. Just experiment with it, try lowering it bit by bit until it feels good.
 

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I found that small adjustments can make a big difference. (1/2 - 1" lower) Start at your road height and drop it in small amounts until you can maneuver the bike underneath you, but still not have too much knee bend at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
 

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I vote gravity dropper. If you really feel that the seat is in your way and you don't want to stop and lower it, then it's the best solution. I refuse to compromise my knees by lowering my seat too far, so personally I leave it up unless an extended technical downhill section arises. As soon as I can find a drop seatpost that I think can handle my inevitable abuse then I'll buy it; until then, I'll just lower the post when I need it and leave it up when I don't.
 

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Lowering your seat for downhill doesn't really work where I live either. Our trails locally are not of the "pedal up for miles and then descend" variety. A typical hill-climb where I live might take 30 to 60 seconds, and then it's downhill for maybe 15 seconds. Then it's flat a bit. Then it's up. Then it's down. You'd spend more time adjusting than riding.

I keep telling myself I should buy an adjustable post someday, but instead....

...I just run my post a bit on the low side -- maybe a half-inch to an inch less than optimal road height.
 

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ride the moment
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Beyond pedaling efficiency, you can hurt your knees if your saddle is too low. If I'm riding "up and down" trails I tend to lower my saddle just a little bit from the optimum pedaling height. Like Trek43k mentioned, even a half an inch can make a difference in descending. I just make sure to stand up if the pedaling gets difficult to keep my knees safe.
 

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I've lowered the seat on my trail bike. Now I'm getting numbness in my left leg. I don't get that with my XC bike or my 700c bike. I'm going to go ahead and raise the seat. It's definitely harder to get behind the seat now, but we'll see how I do tonight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
There's no question in my mind that proper road bike seat height (slight bend in the lower knee) is way better for pedaling and all-around comfort.

What frustrates me is all the MTB technique stuff I see (in books, in videos, on the web, etc.) where we see people doing all kinds of moves like manuals, bunny hops, jumping up onto ledges, etc...and they NEVER have high seats!

In other words...I'd like to see people doing trials-type moves with a high seat. Not likely, right?

For example, I've tried to get my front wheel up just by weight shift alone—by trying to get my butt as far back and low as possible...and with the seat at proper pedaling height, it can't be done—because the seat will STOP your torso from going any lower!

The bottom line for me is looking more and more like a Gravity Dropper. That just seems like the only sensible solution, because there are times when you really want pedaling efficiency...and times when you really want the seat to be the heck out of the way—and nobody wants to stop 10 times along the trail to mess with their seat height.

Scott
 

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I adjust my seat at least once or twice a ride - which is not inconvenient because I usually ride alone and I don't mind excuses to stop. The desired height depends not only on whether I'm facing a climb or descent, but also on how technical the trails are, how good my balance is that day, the position of the stars, etc.
 

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SWriverstone said:
So Kona_CT (and others)...would you say that having lots of "crotch room" to maneuver is generally more important in most average mountain biking than pedaling efficiency?

Seems like this is really the key question!

Scott
I think like most things... you're going to have tons of different answers here.

I do more urban riding and I grew up riding BMX (never had a mountain bike until I was 25). So I just like the seat a little lower. I'm not saying I have it dropped so my knees smack my chin...

When I climb I'm usually out of the saddle, anyway.
 

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Your fears are TOTALLY unfounded, Totally!!
Women have a much greater chance of doing bodily harm. What shorts do you wear, mine let me slide up and over the saddle when I do forward suddenly! When your butt is behind the saddle, grab the saddle sides with your knees. Or just get a full suspension and stay seated...
 

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meow meow
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i keep my saddle about an inch or two lower than it "should" be on trail rides and around three inches lower on anything more aggressive. i find it still gives me good leg extension but when the going gets rough i still have enough room to move around.
 

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I match my saddle heights on all three of my bikes (nice road, cheap road, mountain.) Or at least, I match the feel. I have a very narrow saddle on my mountain bike, so it's easy for me to get behind it.

OP, when you say your saddle height is proven to be the best for pedaling efficiency - by whom? There are a lot of pretty questionable formulae running around, and IMHO the only way to actually find one's own best saddle height is experimentation. I wish I could do it with a power meter, but that's money I don't have right now. For many of us, it's lower than we think. I rode with too high a saddle for a long time, before being talked into a lower position when I paid for a bike fit. Even though I was sure I'd hate the new height and go back to a higher saddle afterwards, after a little bit of riding I was sold. It happens to match the straight leg with my heel on the pedal in line with the seat post version of fitting, but it's not too hard to imagine a person with anatomy that would make that invalid.

My point is that, at least for me, having my saddle at a good road height makes it pretty easy to get behind it to descend a fairly natural trail well. I'd still lower it for dirt jumping or a flow park, and I'd rent a bike if I was doing shuttle DH and probably put it low for that too.

So if it's in your way in a good pedaling position... adjustable seat post. But make sure it's really in a good pedaling position.
 

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I also use the "heel on pedal with straight leg" way of fitting. I use this most of the time and drop my seat about an inch when into tech stuff. If I'm racing it stays at the upper height, and if I'm riding for fun it stays at 1" lower.
I hardly ever adjust it while on a ride...although I have learned over the yrs to get behind it without an issue when it's in the upper height.
It can really hurt your knees if in the wrong position and I agree with most that have posted that you need to experiment, but make sure your in a good position.
 

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It's all a compromise and depends on what you really want. Personally, on my XC bikes the saddle is about 1" lower than optimal, as it allow me to freely move around the saddle without it getting in the way.

Usually in the videos they're not using a XC bike. You wouldn't have the seat raised on e DH bike either.
 
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